One of the most paradoxical things to come out of the 2011 general election was that while Labour’s share of the party vote was decimated (down to 27.1% – or a 6.9% swing against), a reasonable number of their electorate candidates managed to substantially increase their majorities.
|Electorate||Candidate||Percentage swing to Labour|
|Mangare||Sua William Sio||20.7|
|Wellington Central||Grant Robertson||7.1|
|Tamaki Makaurau||Shane Jones||6.8|
|Manukau East||Ross Robertson||6.7|
|Te Tai Tokerau||Kelvin Davis||6.5|
|Auckland Central||Jacinda Ardern||4.7|
Firstly, congratulations to all those candidates who managed to hold their seats (if Brendon Burns holds Christchurch Central on specials, then Labour have only lost one electorate – Waimakariri – despite a massive swing against them).
Also, before we go any further, it is worth noting that there are lots of variables at play. For example, the Te Tai Tokerau swing is against the 2008 general election result, not the very close 2011 by-election. So please take things with a grain of salt.
For me there are some pretty obvious insights that jump out of the raw numbers.
If you look at the three “M” seats, Mangare, Manukau East and Manurewa, Labour managed to significantly increase their share of the vote, despite the turnout being in line with the nation-wide trend. This has to be due to a combination of factors working in Labour’s favour:
- The absence of Taito Phillip Field. In 2008, despite being booted out of Labour and facing corruption charges, he stood against Sua William Sio, and his Pacific Party stood candidates in the other “M” seats. They never had a chance of beating Labour, but they took a noticeable amount of the votes.
- It’s possible that elements of Labour’s policy platform – $15 minimum wage and GST off fruit and veges – struck a chord in these electorates which have high levels of social deprivation. That said, if we’re going to make untested, sweeping generalisations we have to admit that the people at the bottom of the heap are also the ones most likely to be disconnected from the political process.
Another point to note is that three of the top 10 seats in terms of swing are Maori electorates. One of the two new seats Labour picked up was Te Tai Tonga. Their candidate, Rino Tirikatene, pushed hard on the line that Maori Party voters were dissatisfied with the deal with National. So hard, that on election night, even Tariana Turia was admitting it…
“And it may well be … that they haven’t liked the relationship with National.”
The final point that jumps out is the fact that Labour obviously has some decent campaigners. Everyone on this list has done well (and to be fair, there are also another dozen or so candidates who have pulled in very respectable results). Robertson, Hipkins, Nash and Ardern all ran excellent campaigns. It really shows that one of Labour’s greatest losses on election night was Stuart Nash. I personally hope he sticks with it – victory in Napier is well within his grasp for 2014.
There are of course massive issues with the party vote, and turnout generally. I’ll save those for another day!